Wednesday, 28 October 2009

brb, uk

Not for the first time this year I'm in the delightful position of being required to write a "seeya later, rainy England" blog post before boarding a plane. 2009 has taken me to Northern Ireland, America, Cyprus and in 12 hours time, America again. It's times like this which remind me that I don't just have the best job in the world, but I'm bloody lucky too.

Over the next 10 days I'll be watching The Get Up Kids (one of my favourites) with Kevin Devine (one of ours) five times across New York, Washington DC and Philadelphia, as well as darting between a number of very exciting meetings, eating in my favourite restaurant in the world, running up the steps Rocky trains on, walking around Baltimore furiously quoting The Wire, going to a keg party in Brooklyn, supporting the Yankees in the baseball World Series whilst in NY, switching to the Phillies when I cross the Pennsylvanian border, and taking tourist photos left, right and centre. A great time, I'm sure you'd all agree, but this, unfortunately, means that Blog Scary Monsters will be transformed into a quiet little ghost town for the next few days. If you're a fan of jealousy, daydreaming and/or other people gloating, I recommend you follow me on Twitter to satisfy your BSM blogging whims in 140 character doses.

I'll still attempt to update this thing from time to time, but if not before, I'll see you back here on November 9th with a whole host of tales, photos, videos and maybe some new release news...

Be well.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Peel

After a very difficult day yesterday sporting officially the worst hangover of my life whilst enduring two buses and a train to get me home from the incredible Swn festival in Cardiff to Oxford... via Birmingham(!)... I'm now back in the land of the living. If only I could remember half of what was happening in the photos I've just seen from Friday night.

So it turns out that today is the 5th anniversary of the unfortunate passing of John Peel. It reminded me of something I posted on here 2 years ago and thought I'd resurrect the tale from the archives to help mark the occasion. Enjoy...

The first radio airplay BSM ever received was from Mr Peel back in 2004. He played two of my releases back to back and called it a "BSM segway". One of the records he put on at the wrong speed and the other was a split single, from which he played one band but called them by the others name. I was at my girlfriend's Mum's wedding when I received a text telling me he'd played them the night before, so I faked illness to literally run the 2 miles home and listen back online. I spent the rest of the afternoon punching the air, wearing a huge smile and getting drunk on WKD blue, before being rumbled and shouted at by my girlfriend. She didn't understand my reasoning. We broke up shortly after citing musical differences as the reason.

R.I.P. John Peel


Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Waving the flag

A frequent reader of this here blog, Mr Thom Isom, is currently working on a very interesting project for his uni course which revolves around promotion and street team tasks. Based in Leicester, Thom is inventing a number of activities and events which will help advertise local gigs and new releases for BSM signed and affiliated artists.

His first idea was to promote a recent Tubelord show by placing 500 small flags around the city, each one showing a differently designed sleeve, taken from the bands recent range of 7" single packages. Below are a couple of photos of his work and you can read more about it here.

I'll post some more updates in the future so you can follow Thom's ideas here, or indeed on his own blog. I believe the next one will be to promote Calories new EP release, which we haven't really properly announced yet. oops.




Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Tiredness kills

I'm having one of those difficult mornings. The kind which happens two days after a very near sleepless night, where the severe tiredness is taking hold and you find yourself staring into space, daydreaming about pointless things, and making bizarre typo's when you do manage to muster the strength to type. This is all, of course, the fault of a wonderful Sunday night in Manchester.

A shorter than usual visit to the annual In The City festival but a great time nonetheless as the BSM showcase rocked the very strange walls of TV21 in the city's trendy northern quarter. With a life size Predator adorning the front window and a giant aeroplane nose crashing through one of the walls, the upstairs bar was described as a scene from Toy Story by members of Talons, whilst downstairs looked like a war bunker decked out with fairy lights and soundtracked by some of our favourite bands. Huge thanks to everyone who left their homes for a cold Sunday night out, packing the room for rocking sets from Shapes, Talons, Shoes And Socks Off, Copy Haho, The Moi Non Plus and Wonderswan. We had a great time and I hope you did too.

I now face the daunting prospect of mass-email and mailorder catchup hell over the next 48 hours, before making my way down to Cardiff for Swn festival and the 2nd of our BSM showcase parties, and then a trip to the US. It's all go round here.

Unfortunately, something which is far from "all go" right now is the Royal Mail. Effectively ruining my life, their levels of incompetence have reached new lows recently. As anyone who happened to catch the feature on Watchdog last week will already know, there are currently thousands of parcels piled up in many sorting offices around the country, with further strikes looming to only increase the problem. And that's before you even touch on the subject of the poor people who have been subjected to fraudsters running riot with their personal details, once again thanks to our Majesty's service being unwilling/incapable of solving simple issues. It's a rant which could run on for years, but I'll round it up by saying that if you're waiting for an order from us which is more than a week old, it's a 99% certainty that some useless postman is currently sitting on it. If you're one of these people, please accept my sincere apologies and if you drop me an email, I'll send you a link to download the MP3s for your chosen purchase to give you something to listen to until the parcel arrives.

I feel a slight twinge of energy kicking in after that so I'm off to shovel my way through the pile of unread emails and add to Royal Mail's growing piles of undelivered post. Stupid Kevin Costner.



Friday, 16 October 2009

New Kids On The Blog #4 - Tall Ships

Following closely on from my declaration of love for Men, here's another great new band for you to check out...

Tall Ships

Hailing from Falmouth, which is likely to be roughly a million miles from where you are, no matter where you're reading this, Tall Ships have been quietly bubbling under the surface for a while now. They utilise vocal samples, synths and more to make dancey, instrumental songs which sound a little bit like an indie kid's favourite rave.

Right now, inbetween shifts recording their new EP, the band are playing a handful of shows with our mutual friends Tubelord, including their album launch show in London on Tuesday with BSM favourites, Copy Haho. Three very good reasons to buy a ticket, if you ask me.

www.myspace.com/tallshipsfromfalmouth


Tuesday, 13 October 2009

See you Swn

Yesterday I posted all of the info for our upcoming showcases at In The City and Swn festivals. Today I bring you a brief but friendly interview with Mr Huw Stephens, one of the directors and co-curators of Swn, Radio One disc jockey and all-round nice guy...

So the festival is now in its third year. How did it first come about?

Me and John Rostron were in SXSW in Austin and thinking; we really need to do one of these at home. It felt like the right time to do it and get it started, so we came up with the name (pronounced 'Soon', means 'Sound' in Welsh) and went at it like madmen.

I'm more than a little ashamed to admit that this will be my first time; what can I, and everyone else, expect from Swn?
Well, it's in venues across Cardiff. This year its more central than ever, all around Womanby St in the centre opposite the massive castle. Then there's Chapter where theres great gigs on in Canton and the Gate in Cathays, the studenty area. Cardiff's quite small and everyone's friendly, so it will be a laugh. The music is all picked by me, John and the promoters so its all good!

Who are you most looking forward to seeing over the whole weekend? No sitting on the fence now, I want the cold hard truth!
I really want to see The Drums in Dempsesy on Saturday, cos I like what I've heard so far. There's so much I want to see though. Ive never seen Drums of Death either, so I'll see them. Daedelus I can't wait to see either, at Clwb n Friday night, as he is amazing live.

For all of us out-of-towners descending on Cardiff for the weekend, where would you suggest we head for our hangover-beating breakfasts? I'm relying on your local knowledge here to keep me away from Wetherspoons!
Yes, skip Wetherspoons. On Saturday head to Jacobs Market on the top of St Mary St in to the Off the Rails cafe, it's by the station. And the breakfast is amazing. If you're up late go to Marcellos in Castle Arcade opposite the Castle.

I'm DJing after our show on the 23rd. If I play 'Boom Shake The Room' will you be on the dancefloor partying like it's 1999? I imagine at least 3/4 of Pulled Apart By Horses will be shirtless, puking and drinking shots through their eyes by that point.
I will definitely dance to that! I reckon everyone else will too to be honest. Your lineup is awesome and having you and Fear and Records on afterwards too to DJ will complete it. it'll be a lot of fun!


So there you go. Huw's gonna be on the dancefloor... Will you?

Who said festival season was over?

Thus far October has been warmer than most of the summer and there seems to be just as many festivals too! What a crazy crazy world we live in. Here's a little rundown of some of what's coming up this month...

In The City - 18th - 20th Oct, Manchester

This Sunday (18th) BSM takes over TV21 (note: change of venue, no longer at Hatters Hostel) in Manchester for our In The City showcase. We're sharing the joy with our good friends The Art Of agency and this is what you can expect...

Shapes - 10.30pm
Talons - 9.45pm
Shoes And Socks Off - 9.10pm
Copy Haho - 8.30pm
The Moi Non Plus - 7.45pm
Wonderswan - 7.00pm

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All that plus another 150 bands over the course of three nights for just £20! Or £7, if for some crazy reason you only want to come to our show. Get your tickets from Seatwave.com and be down the front nice and early. It just so happens to be Toby (Shoes And Socks Off) birthday so lets make it a good un.


Swn - 22nd - 24th Oct, Cardiff

After that we're off to Cardiff where we link up with our equally good friends, Fear And Records, for a Swn Festival showcase at the lovely Clwb Ifor Bach. This time you can expect to find...

Pulled Apart By Horses - 10.00pm (downstairs)
Johnny Foreigner - 9.00pm (upstairs)
Decimals - 8.30pm (down)
You Animals - 8.00pm (up)
Talons - 7.30pm (down)
Exit International - 7.00pm (up)
+ Jakwob, Daedelus and Mary Anne Hobbs DJing upstairs
+ Kevin Douch and Gareth Dobson DJing downstairs

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Tickets for this one are £17 for the day or £45 for the whole weekend. Check out the full, incredible lineup and more at www.swnfest.com. We'll be in Wales on Thursday night to see Three Trapped Tigers so why not come down early to join us for that?

Look out tomorrow for an interview with Swn festival director and co-curator, Huw Stephens.


And the rest...

Audioscope - 17th, Oxford. Taking place at The Jericho, BSM's own Talons will be performing (at 6.30pm) alongside Maps, The Longcut, Remember Remember, Cats And Cats And Cats, and many more, in the cities charity all-dayer highlight of the year. Tickets and info.

Hockley Hustle - 25th, Nottingham. Taking in almost 20 venues sprawling across Robin Hood's home ground, this is a bargain of a festival with ticket prices for the day starting at just £5. We especially recommend the Bodega Social Club which will play host to Tubelord, Copy Haho, Talons, Shapes and loads more.

Brainwash - 29th Oct - 1st Nov, Leeds. A handful of venues and a dream of a lineup, get yourself up to Leeds to see Talons, Pulled Apart By Horses, This Town Needs Guns, Blakfish and Tubelord with Efterklang, Jaga Jazzist, Hot Club De Paris and many, many more. More info.


It's party time


Monday, 12 October 2009

Who likes a good bit of wordplay?

Here's one for you...

BSM Autumn Salebration

That's right, it's a sale-erbration. You get it, right?

Friday, 9 October 2009

DiS #5

Another day, another shameless piece of media whoring:

Drowned In Scary Monsters #5 - The DY Uprising

I wrote this a few days ago, inspired after entering into a debate on the DiS forum about the fan-funded model of bands paying for recording sessions and releasing their music. It's an interesting topic and one I recommend you read over if you have an opinion on the subject and a few minutes to kill. My column isn't really on the same theme, but there are connections and comparisons to be made.

Tonight I'm off to see Alexisonfire, Anti-Flag, Four Year Strong and The Ghost Of 1000 at the Zodiac in Oxford, 2 minutes round the corner from here. I haven't been to a gig (a non-BSM one especially) for a while now and I'm prepared for a long night of propping up the bar and moaning about how stupid kids are. "In my day..." etc etc.




Wish me luck

Thursday, 8 October 2009

I was in 2 minds about posting this

For:
You might be looking to kill 35 minutes of your life
In amongst the nonsense, I may say something which will interest you
It's me on TV!

Against:
It's THIRTY FIVE minutes long
I talk a lot of nonsense
It's me on TV!

At Rapturefest back in August Beatcast.tv asked if they could interview me. By this point I'd had a few drinks, watched loads of good bands (and Reading embarrassingly crushed 3-0 by Newcastle) and had managed to forget the sham that was my appearance on Swedish TV. So I agreed. And then I talked... and talked... and talked...

If nothing else, skip to the 25 minute mark and listen to my quotes about how CDs will outlive iPods, so you can come back and remind me of that in a few years time when I'm living in a house built of unsold plastic discs, without a penny to my name.

I can't embed the video, so click here to watch it

Enjoy, or whatever.

Autumn

I'm on a bit of a new music trip right now. Like buses, it's funny how so many incredible bands can all spring up, seemingly at the same time. And nicely showcasing said musical discoveries is the unveiling of our Autumn Collection tracklisting, which alongside the usual crop of BSM rarities, demos, live recordings, remixes and so on, is a handful of my favourite newbies. Feast your eyes on this little lot...

01. Colour - Dinosaurs
02. Calories - Lets Pretend That We're Older
03. Blakfish - Charmer (Kings of Leon cover)
04. Shoes And Socks Off - Epic Sweet Proportions
05. Men - Re: Your Re-Branding
06. Shapes - Trampled By A Horse (Please Will remix)
07. Kevin Devine - Just Stay (live at Old Blue Last)
08. Grown Ups - Open Sesame
09. Greatest Hits - Cat Got Your Tongue?
10. This Town Needs Guns - Panda (acoustic)
11. Mutiny On The Bounty - Chico y Consuela
12. Hold Your Horse Is - Christopher Walken
13. Adebisi Shank - Oyasumi
14. Robert Fruit - Tit Wank Car Crash
15. Talons - Commiserations Buff Orpington (live video)
16. The Tupolev Ghost - Diagrams (promo video)

The CD will be released exclusively via the BSM webstore later this month where you can already pre-order it for £5, or subscribe to the whole, four CD series, for just £15.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

New Kids On The Blog #3 - Men

Following on from our first two New Kids On The Blog features, a third is well overdue, and it's an absolute beauty too.

Men

Despite this band featuring members of Pennines, a band much-adored around these parts, it was only a couple of weeks ago they entered my life, and quickly went on to soundtrack my recent holiday in Cyprus.

I'm never good at giving reliable points of reference but fans of everyone from Tellison to the Beach Boys to Hot Water Music should enjoy this Norwich based lot. And if the vocal harmonies at the end of 'Re: Your Re-Branding' don't get you humming along, you're probably dead from the ears down.

Check out the Myspace and try to find a way to tell your friend you like Men without them questioning your sexual orientation, hetro males.

www.myspace.com/menoftheuk


Monday, 5 October 2009

MP3s - what do you want from me?

5 years after moving out, and countless requests from my parents, I finally got around to going through the boxes and boxes of my old stuff in their garage yesterday. In amongst the thousands of empty jewel cases, hundreds of video tapes, random clutter and a mouldy tennis racket were loads of copies of old(ish) BSM releases. Things I thought I'd seen the back of were there to haunt me. With the spare room, hallway and part of the living room in my flat already filled with box after box of CDs, space has never felt so precious. This leads me to two points:

1) We're definitely having a sale. Look out for that later this week. And...

2) Thank God for MP3s

Don't get me wrong, I love CDs and am a strong believer that the format is far from dead, but when running a record label with close-to 100 releases from a small, city centre flat, there's only so many coffee tables, mattresses and bookends you can make from plastic discs. The digital age, for all it's pirate-happy downsides, certainly has a friend when it comes to space-saving. There's no need for dusty shelves and heaving wardrobes when MP3s come to town.

This weekend marked the end of our first month selling MP3s directly via www.bsmrocks.com/shop. It's something I'd been meaning to do for a while - initially holding off until our new website was completed - and has been an interesting few weeks of learning. Unfortunately, until said new site is finished, our sales are still very much a manual process, meaning I'm emailing download links and passwords out in response to order receipts. This is fine 16 hours a day when I have a ready and willing internet connection, but shy of adopting 24/7 shifts, there's little to be done whilst sleeping. The system, however, seems to be working ok and will shortly be automated, providing the perfect service for one and all.

However, as a music consuming fan I still opt to purchase physical products and have, to date, only ever bought one MP3; and that was a song I released anyway! So this is a question I really need to turn over to you...

What do you want from me?

When you buy MP3s, what's important? Do you want them in the highest quality possible? Would you like a choice of file formats? What about artwork; should that come in the package and if so, in what format? What else would you like with the music? Links to websites, videos and other added content? How about discount vouchers to be used against the corresponding physical release?

Our digital store is going to be an ongoing project with consistent, small improvements made right through until the end of the year. It's going to take a while to reach perfection but I would love to know what will help us get their faster for you.

As ever, comments on the blog are much appreciated (you don't need to have a Blogger account, by the way), as are messages via email, Twitter or Facebook. I read everything and always do my best to respond.

I'm off to play Tetris with a few hundred CDs. Wish me luck!


Friday, 2 October 2009

Interview: Equal Vision

Through years of running the label I've faced countless interviews and am now quite used to them. You kinda know what sort of questions to expect, what to say, what not to say, and have a lot of fun doing it, especially when an opportunity to plug a new release or share an in-joke arrises. Something I'm not so used to, however, is having the shoe on the other foot.

After my 'It's An American Thing' blog post a few weeks ago, a very nice lady by the name of Francesca contacted me. Francesca works at Equal Vision Records, the label heavily featured in said post, and she very kindly agreed to answer a few questions to give a different perspective on my continuing quest to unravel my fascination with the American punk scene. The problem was... What do I ask?!

1) Please introduce yourself and your role at Equal Vision

My name is Francesca and I oversee Publicity and Royalties for the label, as well as some A&R duties. I'm somewhat of a "label swiss army knife."

2) How did you come to work for the label? Where do your musical roots lie and were you a fan of EVR's previous work?

I was selling merch for a friends band at Bamboozle in 2006. Before the gates opened on the last day, I walked around to all of the booths, found the Equal Vision/MerchNow tent and told them "I'm going to work for EVR some day". I eventually made friends with one of the guys from MerchNow who then introduced me to other folks at the company. I had been a fan for a bit and wasn't really paying attention to what bands were on what label until around 2003. I started noticing a pattern - a lot of them were on EVR (the majority were on Drive-Thru but California was too far). When I was hired in Jan 07, I first started in the general business office. A few short months later and the opportunity opened up for me to transfer over to the label office. As I find something else I like doing, I add it to my list of jobs. It's kind of cool that it works that way... if you like doing something and/or you're good at it, you can do it. If you have an idea, you can implement it, and you can do so right away. I like that over all of the red tape & such that happens at major labels.

3) From reading interviews with Steve Reddy it sounds as though EVR has come on a long way, with some really interesting tales to tell along the way. Are Steve's ethics and ideas of doing what you love and taking care of your employees projected throughout the organisation? I picture a big, happy workforce all delighted to wake up in the morning and go into the office!

When I was in the general business office, my desk was right outside of Steve's office so I got to hear A LOT of stories. It's absolutely insane to me everything that he went through and to hear from him & from the folks that have been with EVR for 10+ years what the company used to be like back then compared to now... it's amazing! It's definitely motivating... especially when they reminisce about the pre-air conditioner days!

4) Looking at labels in general, I'm a big fan of the way US companies brand themselves, which is something us Brits don't seem to have been able to achieve quite so well historically. A few theories such as the size of the country (US counterparts having to focus on one community to begin with - eg Sub Pop in Seattle, Dischord in DC, etc - whilst the UK is small enough to mean that no one city grows ahead of any other), UK labels selling out their independent roots back in the 90's, therefore losing any brand credibility, and the rise of the internet meaning that anyone can now find their own new music, reducing the need for labels to be 'tastemakers'. Looking at it from a fan's point of view as well as someone who works in the industry, did/do you get the same sense of togetherness from labels? And if so, what factors do you think helped to make these brands so strong?

The US has more opportunities to turn people into customers. With a larger area and a larger population, there is a greater opportunity for word-of-mouth. This is especially true in those larger cities like DC, Seattle, Portland that are big enough to matter to the rest of the country but still smaller enough than LA or New York that the quality talent doesn't get completely washed out by the quantity. The UK has that same effect, at least from what I can tell, where it's a small enough community for the quality to stand out.

5) Another thing which always fascinates me is the way that British music fans view American artists (in some cases being absolutely idolised, whilst they play to crowds half the size back home) and the idea that the same may work the other way around. I know that some bands (the Kings of Leon, for example) blew up here before people really started to take notice your side of the Atlantic, and some UK bands (Bush is always the example which leaps to mind!) do well in the States but nobody really cares here, but as a general rule, how do you think the UK music scene is perceived over there? Is it deemed influential or exciting? Does an English band playing live in town ever raise any special interest just because of their geography, or is it just another band playing another gig at the same old venue?

The UK is ABSOLUTELY influential! You gave us the biggest bands of all time: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Iron Maiden, Def Leppard... American bands (and bands all over the world) are still ripping these people off today. It is strange, though, now that I think about it, that there aren't many indie or "underground" bands that get attention here. We tend to pay attention once they've made at least some noise in the UK, like Coldplay, Muse, Franz Ferdinand. And when they do get here, it doesn't seem like they have to work very hard or for very long - they're some of the biggest bands around.

I've heard from several bands that have toured internationally that they'll draw a few hundred people based solely on the fact that they're from America. I've never heard of that happening for any other bands. I have noticed people might raise an eyebrow when they hear a band is from Japan or Australia, but I don't think it's every compelled a person to attend a show based solely on that.

6) And to finish, here's a question I get asked a lot so am taking advantage of my brief role-reversal and passing the joy on to you... How do you see the future for record labels?

I see it being completely different than what it is now. If it isn't, labels will be non-existent! Something has to change, but nobody knows what. We've been brainstorming a lot and we're going to be trying some stuff out very soon. Being an indie label, we have the advantage of flexibility, we're able to react more quickly to change because there are fewer moving parts than at a major label, but the majors have more resources than we do. Only time will tell which advantage is greater.


So there you go. I think my interviewing skills need a bit of refining but hey, it's a start. I'd like to see David Frost trying to run an independent record label!